Depression is a living hell, for the sufferer, but also for their loved ones. And it’s likely that a good percent of people on he re are here to find help for a loved one that seems to be so deep in despair that they’re beyond helping themselves. It’s a horrible thing to watch, and if you’ve never had depression you won’t truly understand what they’re going through.
So the next few steps will help you to get your loved one to take the next steps to recovery:
The most important thing is to be patient with the person and understand that they are not in control of how they feel. They are not to blame. Be realistic and don’t push too hard, ultimately it is up to them to change and often pushing too hard will lead to resistance and push back.
Step 1: Try to put yourself in their shoes, and try to understand exactly how they feel and what they are going through. You probably won’t understand fully if you’ve never had depression, but give it a go. Reread my account of depression at the beginning of this article and remind yourself that that is what they are likely going through.
When you can successfully put yourself into their emotional state and situation then you will be in the best position to help your loved one.
Understand that poor mood is not their fault, it’s nothing they’ve done and it’s a physical problem with psychological symptoms. They can’t just “snap out of it”.
Open dialogue with them so you can fully understand how they feel and what their situation is. You can say things like:
- I have noticed that you’re not quite yourself lately, is there something on your mind. (Do not say “what’s wrong?”)
- I wanted to check in with you because you have seemed really down lately.
- I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you were doing.
Try to figure out what caused the depression by saying things like:
- When did you begin to feel the way you do now?
- Did something happen to make you feel this way?
- How can I best support you right now?
- Have you thought about seeking help? (be careful how you say this one).
Step 2: provide support if they are not ready to help themselves. It is far more important to be a compassionate listener than to offer advice.
Offering them support by saying things like:
- You are not alone in this, I am here for you.
- You may not believe this at the moment but you will not feel this way forever. You can recover from depression. It just takes time.
- I may not be able to understand fully how you feel but I care about you and want to support you.
- Tell me how I can help.
- If you ever feel totally helpless, never hesitate to call me. I am here for you.
Avoid saying things like:
- Just snap out of it
- It’s all in your head
- Look on the bright side
- What’s wrong with you?
- Anything that puts blame on them or makes light of how they feel. How they feel is very real and not something that should be made light of.
It is important to never dismiss feelings but point out realities and offer hope.
Give them a shoulder to cry on or just listen to how they feel. Offer encouragement and reassurance.
Explain what you’ve learned about depression and how it is not their fault and that they are the victim of their environment. Let them know that the answer to their poor mood is in correcting their neurotransmitters through inflammation and micronutrients and that this can actually be done relatively easily.
Show them the proof in this article. Something along the lines of “hey look at this, magnesium has been shown to help depression, in this study the participants improved on average of X% after just X weeks. Do you think you would be willing to give it a try to see if it helps?”
Reassure them that depression is curable and people recover all of the time.
Try not to be ambiguous at all when talking to them about their situation or offering advice. Depressed people tend to dwell on the smallest of comments so make sure that anything you say to them cannot be misinterpreted.
Very gently encourage them to seek advice/help from a professional
Step 3: Assist them to make a change (if, and only if, they appear ready). Help them try one or 2 of the interventions I discussed in this article. Whether that’s as simple as buying them a bottle of magnesium (check with their doctor first) or going for a walk in the sun every couple days.
It is ultimately up to them to get better and pushing will make them push back.
Use the following guidelines when offering assistance:
- Be gentle yet persistent. Never lose your temper with them even if they are being difficult. Remember that if they lash out at you it’s not them that is doing it; it is their depression that is changing how they react to the situation.
- Lead by example, if they see you doing these things as well they will be much more likely to do the same.
- Get other people involved, explain to them how your loved one feels and what you have learned about depression.
- Create a stable environment for them free of stress.
- If you believe that they are in a hopeless place and potentially could harm themselves, do not leave them alone and call a suicide hotline. Be on the lookout for even the smallest hint that they could harm themselves.
- Start with a few small goals and then build from there. Most depressed people find it difficult to make big changes.
Did I miss any tips for helping a loved one with their depression? Tell me in the comments below.